Debate over whether young girls should be watching demeaning reality shows like Love Island.

Psychologist and director at Body Matters Australasia Sarah McMahon tells Sydney Morning Herald that reality TV shows are extremely appealing to young girls because they typically present as innocent and mindless entertainment.

“It reinforces a very familiar fairytale to girls that if you’re thin, hot and sexy you’ll win your knight in shining armour and get your happy ever after, while everyone else will be doomed to misery,” says McMahon.

“When shows blatantly distil a person’s worth down to how they look, it sends a very powerful message that popularity and value are based entirely on this.
Competitions that pit one person against another, particularly based on appearance, are the ultimate offender here.”


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McMahon notes that these shows present one beauty ideal, which is skewed, unrealistic and unobtainable to the average teen girl. However, teen girls can’t identify this discrepancy and so think they’re the problem.

Similarly, teen girls will identify and empathise with even the “ugliest of personalities” on the show, which ultimately reinforces the ideal that it’s how you look, not how you behave, that matters most.

“Ultimately, this means that teen girls will spend their time focused on their appearance and produce a life narrative that looks good from the outside,” says McMahon. “The danger in shifting motivation from how it feels to how it looks can result in a disconnection from self and an ongoing process of self-surveillance.”

When it comes to warning signs, McMahon notes that a significant change in teen girls behaviour, including dieting, changing friendship groups or changes in personality style should be taken very seriously.

But, could limiting viewing of reality TV also help?

“There is value in parents setting limits around exposure to these types of shows, however the most helpful thing parents can do is help teenagers critically appraise what they’re seeing,” says McMahon.

McMahon suggests talking about the narrow and unrealistic body types presented on the show and talking about how that makes your teen feel.

“Don’t let them internalise the message that not looking like the participants means that there must be something wrong with them,” she says.

Similarly, in real life, McMahon advises teaching teens to be real with themselves, particularly when trying to curate their own life on social media.

“Ask them, ‘Do you want to be the girl who exists simply to take a photo that looks good and attracts lots of likes? Or do you want to be the girl who lives in the moment and does what she actually feels like doing?'”

Should we be using them as a learning experience?

Parenting expert Steve Biddulph believes it is nothing more than “Mindless entertainment to chill to, but not harmless.”

However, many parents argue that actually sitting down and watching these shows with your children is a great opportunity to open discussion.

– “Best show to raise topics and talk through body issues, toxic relationship red flags, women friendships and betrayal, so much juicy stuff and my teen daughter didnt get defensive as it wasnt her friends or her immediate life. I highly recommend watching and critiquing.”

– “I’m all about having a conversation, watching love island with my daughter ( it’s toe curling entertainment) . It’s given us the chance to talk about things together. In fact, it’s been quite helpful.”

– “Love Island was a good education tool of what’s wrong with the world. My teenage sons and 10 yo daughter had some very meaningful conversations about what was wrong with how these people talked and acted.”

One Mum-of-two shared why she is allowing her young children to watch the popular show. Read her opinion HERE.

“It’s the 21st century and kids can access so much online these days, I believe it is better to encourage openness rather than pretend they aren’t watching it at all”

Are you a fan of these reality shows?

Share your comments below


  • Shows like love island are adult tv shows. Young girls shouldn’t be watching them full stop.

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  • Slot of my problem with reality TV is that it isn’t really reality. It’s scripted, excessively dramatic or unrealistic. If the show isn’t designed with children in mind (has sexual themes, drug or alcohol use or adult themes) then they shouldn’t be watching it.

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  • As far as I’m concerned this type of show shouldn’t be given air time at all.

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  • I don’t think anyone should watch this show. It’s vacuous.

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  • I think this is just rubbish tv

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  • I don’t like watching them and some of the things that happen on there are not for young girls anyway

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  • Personally I think no because it isn’t ‘real life’ as such. It sets our girls up to think that these types of shows are normal when really they are just mass produced for reality tv entertainment.

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  • Not something I would allow my young daughter to watch. For the same reason why we were not allowed to watch big brother which on the prime spot was much more tame.

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  • Not the type of show that goes on the television by us, we don’t like to see our kids watching this indeed.

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  • Not my kind of show , I never watch them.Thanks god my son loves the renovation shows , I am happy with his choice for now.

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  • I don’t get these shows. Plus why do all the woman & men have to be so buff, skinny, pretty etc. There is enough problems with young people reflecting on their own body image & this show does help. I would rather watch real people of all types find love.
    These shoes are just false & ridiculous

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  • Why anyone wants to watch this show is beyond me. They’re not looking for lifelong love, they’re just interested in their 5 minutes of fame and earning some fast cash. The people on these shows are so self absorbed and so deficit in brain function, not a good example for young girls

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  • I agree! I don’t watch these programs at all.

    Reply

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